When the Michigan hockey team takes the ice before every game, several of the Wolverines have their own routines. Sophomore T.J. Hensick is always the second-to-last player to leave the rink after warm-ups, senior captain Eric Nystrom is always the second-to-last player onto the ice before player introductions and senior Eric Werner is always the second-to-last player into the huddle around the net. Freshman Chad Kolarik is always the first player on the bench and senior Nick Martens is always the second-to-last guy off the blue line after the national anthem.
But senior Milan Gajic trumps them all. Gajic is the last guy off the ice, the last one on, the last one off the blue line and the last in the huddle. And it doesn’t stop there.
“Where do you want to start?” Gajic said. “The week before? Two days before? You’re laughing, but no, it’s bad. … I got everything from how I fall asleep to what I eat.”
He makes sure that he always gets a bag of Haribo Alphabet Letter Gummies a couple of days before the weekend. If they don’t have the candies at Campus Corner he goes across the street to Blue Front. And if they’re sold out, then it’s off to CVS, which, luckily for Gajic, is open 24 hours per day.
So what about sleeping? What superstitions does he have about going to bed?
“Oh, I can’t tell you that,” Gajic joked.
But the list goes on and on. On game days, Gajic takes his superstitions even further. Like most of his teammates, Gajic takes a pregame nap. But he wakes up every day to the same, ironic song — “Headstrong” by Trap. The song wakes up both Gajic and Nystrom, who live in the same house. Gajic always wears his tie loose and his top button unbuttoned to the game.
“And I don’t think he wears socks on game days,” Nystrom said.
One of Gajic’s biggest superstitions is making his mom call him from British Columbia on game days at 5 p.m., and making his dad call at 5:15 p.m. His mom tells him to be careful and to make sure he doesn’t hurt anybody. Then his dad tells him to score a goal, get an assist and hurt anyone who comes near him.
“They live in the same house, but they can’t talk to me at the same time,” Gajic said. “It’s funny because you can hear them in the background when the other one is calling.”
His mom, Helen, said that she started calling him from work when he was playing junior hockey. Milan wouldn’t let her off the phone until she said the things that she said every week.
“Because I was at work, sometimes, it was very inconvenient,” Helen said. “But it doesn’t matter. It has to be done.”
Gajic’s superstitions started after a good game in junior hockey in which his underdog team won 5-4. Actually, Gajic won the game; he scored all five goals.
“From there, I think that started everything,” Gajic said. “That was pretty much it right there, and, since then, as long as I can remember, it’s been pretty much like that.”
None of his teammates have ever tried to stop him from doing his routine, so it has never been a problem. For two games during his first year of junior hockey he had to wear No. 13 instead of his traditional No. 9 because a veteran on the team had his number. But his teammate was traded a couple days later, and Gajic wore No. 9 the next game. But what will he do at the pro level if he can’t keep his superstitions?
“The next level I’ll be kind of the rookie, right?” Gajic said. “So I pretty much have to do what they tell me. But I’ll try to do as much as I possibly can without pissing anybody off.”